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First, an increasing dissatisfaction over the gulf between classical and theological studies. Christianity in origin, after all, is a part of the story of the ancient world, and has to be seen in context. The context is complex: it is Judaea as part of the Hellenistic world under the rule of Rome: we ignore any part of that context at our peril. Classical scholars tend to be suspicious of those with theological interests: I was forbidden by an examining board of the University of London to set the first verse of St John's Gospel for comment in a paper on Greek philosophy: they were being doctrinaire, not I. But equally some theologians have neglected the disciplined study of the ancient world. It would not be so bad if they left the context out; but instead they offer windy generalisations, secondhand, ill-based and false. Some corrective is needed.
C. F. Beckingham, in his inaugural lecture to the Chair of Islamic Studies, discussed the manner in which European explorers sought for the elusive Prester John, and remarked that it was unusual to lecture on a person who probably did not exist. The Comparative Study of Religions has a universal scale and religions certainly exist. But it has often been held that other religions than our own are untrue, and the attitude adopted towards them by many theologians, and others, has been that which was expressed by Hilaire Belloc in his Cautionary Verses, ‘And is it true? It is not true.’
Remarks to the effect that a correct answer depends upon a correct question —that from a misleading question there can result only a misleading answer—are common today. In fact, one might suspect that such common concentration on finding the right questions has something to do with what seems to be an uncommon lack of answers. This concentration on the importance of asking the right questions can be applied to the interpretation of biblical literature. For here, certainly, the questions asked are often decisive. They guide the inquiry by setting the terms of the search and, in this sense, they determine at least the kind of answers that will be given. Further, they often disclose the presuppositions with which one is working.
To many it seems obvious that any reduction of the nature of man to purely physical components involves an (at least) indirect attack on the doctrine of human immortality. To so reduce human nature, it may be argued, is to eliminate the soul and it is this essential component of man, rather than his body, which is the foundation of his immortality. This seems to me an altogether mistaken notion. My purpose in this paper, therefore, is to clarify the relation of physicalism and immortality and thereby to reveal the error in this alleged incompatibility.
John L. Austin believed that in the illocution he had discovered a fundamental element of our speech, the understanding of which would disclose the significance of all kinds of linguistic action: not only proposing marriage and finding guilt, but also stating, reporting, conjecturing, and all the rest of the things men can do linguistically.2 We claim that the illocution, the full-fledged speech-act, is central to religious utterances as well, and that it provides a perspicuity in understanding them not elsewhere provided in the work of recent philosophy of religion. In particular we hold that understanding religious talk through the illocution shows the way in which the representative and affective elements are connected to one another and to the utterance as a whole. There may, further, be features in such an analysis which can be extended to other forms of discourse than religious.
In a recent symposium on Descartes' ontological argument, Norman Malcolm has restated a rather ingenious version of St Anse1m's ontological argument.1 The purpose of the present paper is to assess the merits of this particular version of the ontological argument.